Practicing with the Fear & Pain of Missing Out on Opportunities

By Leo Babauta

I have a friend who is working on a meaningful project that he wants to focus on … and so he said no to some exciting opportunities.

These were projects where people he highly respects want him to work with them. How can you say no to that?!

Understandably, he felt difficulty after saying no to these amazing opportunities — the pain and fear of missing out. I think a lot of us can relate to that.

The fear and pain of missing out (actually, any fear or pain) can be an amazing opportunity to practice, to open our hearts, to deal with our deep feelings of inadequacy.

It’s a transformative practice.

Saying No is Saying Yes to Focus & Space

Let’s say you’re missing out on important opportunities by saying no. You don’t normally say no — you say yes to too much, and are constantly overloaded. You are constantly too busy, stressed about getting everything done, overworked and prone to burnout, missing deadlines and not doing as well as you could on projects because you’ve got too much going on.

So saying no to these opportunities is a big shift. It means:

  • You are going to give priority to what’s on your plate. Finally!
  • You are going to create space for sanity, for self-care, for not burning out.
  • You are going to give full focus to the work that’s most meaningful to you, that you are most committed to doing.

These are amazing things. These are loving actions to yourself and the people you care about.

And yet, the fear and pain of missing incredible opportunities arises.

Practicing with the Fear & Pain

So you notice yourself struggling with this fear and pain. It’s an incredible doorway to practice and transformation.

Here’s how you might practice:

  • Stop and notice that you are feeling either fear or pain (or both) of missing something important. Pain of not being able to do what you’d like to do. Fear of missing what you should be doing.
  • Pause and let yourself feel the pain and fear. We don’t let ourselves feel it, and run from it, avoid it, fear feeling. But we have the capacity to feel more than we let ourselves fear. We have the courage. Pause and actually feel it — not the thoughts about what you’re missing, but the physical feeling of fear and pain.
  • Ask yourself if there is anything on your plate right now that is less important than what you’ve said no to. Is there anything on your plate you’d remove to make room for this opportunity? If not, you are clear on your priorities (even if there’s never going to be any real certainty that it’s the right choice).
  • Remind yourself that you’ve said yes to your priorities and to having focus and space. That this fear and pain come with this amazingly loving act of saying yes to focus, space and priorities. It’s a part of the experience, and you will feel it many more times. And that’s OK!
  • Remind yourself that you would have felt even greater pain if you had said yes. The pain of being overloaded, too busy, overcommitted, never having time. The pain of burnout, of missing deadlines, of doing worse than you can on each project. The pain you’re feeling now isn’t as bad.
  • Feel the love in saying yes to your biggest priorities. Feel the love in saying yes to focus and space. Appreciate how amazing that is.
  • Fearing missing out is also a kind of “greed” (in a nonjudgmental sense) — we always want more, and want to pile our plates high with everything. Instead, can we be grateful for what we’ve put on our plates? Can we see how amazing the things we’ve chosen are? Can we see that they are enough, and we don’t need more?
  • At the heart of the fear of missing out is our deep feeling of inadequacy. We fear that if we miss out on something important, somehow we won’t be OK. Let yourself face the pain of your feelings of inadequacy, and make friends with this. Can you be friendly and kind to these feelings of inadequacy?
  • Feel the goodness in yourself for the acts you’ve taken. You are a beautiful, courageous person with a good heart. You can handle things if they don’t turn out as well as you like. You have made it through much worse. 

Learn to trust yourself by seeing the goodness in yourself. Learn to validate yourself. Learn to make friends with yourself. Learn to have the courage to feel everything, and be OK with what you feel.

In the end, you will always miss out on something important. It’s unavoidable. But what you are gaining is worth being grateful for.

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